Have You Visited Crystal Bridges Museum?

Martin and I recently visited Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas. I don’t even know where to begin but I’ll start with something we noticed at the end of our first day’s visit. At the end of the day, neither Martin and nor I were tired. No aching “museum back;” no sensory overload; no pressing need to head to the hotel to rest.

When I mentioned this to a staff member, I learned that Moshe Safdie, the museum’s architect, purposefully designed Crystal Bridges to eliminate museum fatigue. Indeed. Moving from gallery to gallery Martin and I reveled in views of the 120-acre park that surrounds the museum. We alternated enjoying the art with a walk along the wooded trails. Scultpures by Dale Chihuly, Deborah Butterfield (that’s her horse sculpture on the left), Robert Indiana, and others dotted the trail.

We toured the Bachman-Wilson House, one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Usonian homes. Acquired in 2014, the New Jersey home was dismantled and rebuilt within the Museum’s grounds. It was beautiful, peaceful, and quirky. Our guide p0inted out the sightlines unifying outside and inside and shared that the architect coined the phrase “carport.”  It seems Wright despised garages because they eventually became filled with stuff. Taking his inspiration from the French term porte-cochere or covered portal, the carport was the architect’s way of preventing any future pack-ratting. 

I could go on and on, mentioning an expansion that is underway to increase gallery capacity by 65%, a school program that reached 60,000 students last year, and the utterly serene Crystal Bridges Library housing 50,000 volumes. But instead, I’ll simply urge you to check out crystalbridges.org and plan a visit.

From Crystal Bridges Museum website: The mission of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is to welcome all to celebrate the American spirit in a setting that unites the power of art with the beauty of nature. Founded by philanthropist and arts patron Alice Walton, Crystal Bridges is a public non-profit charitable organization. The museum opened on November 11, 2011, and welcomes all with free admission.

Photos courtesy of Martin Darvick.

Rosie the Riveter by Norman Rockwell; an outside view of the museum; view of the Bachman-Wilson House

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Why Do Gratitude Journals Make Me Uneasy?

It’s not that I am ungrateful. I am reticent to  list what I am grateful for, lest it be taken from me as punishment for being boastful. Superstitions run deep. I tried years ago to do what Oprah exhorted us to do. I  bought a pretty journal. I  began to write down my many blessings.  I lasted maybe two days.  Maybe I wasn’t doing it correctly? Maybe I should list less tangible graces in my life? Nope. That was even more frightening. How dare I jeopardize my loved ones’ health and love? Why don’t I just mentally acknowledge these blessings and leave the journaling to Oprah and her acolytes?

One of the first morning prayers Jews have the opportunity to recite is the Modeh/Modah Ani (Thankful Am I Before You). This list of fifteen blessings begins with thanking the Creator of all Life for restoring to us our soul. The text then offers thanks for gifts both mundane and ephemeral. One of the fifteen reads, “Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has provided me with all my needs.” For years I thought only in terms of the tangibles. There was so much! Food. Clothing. A home. A loving family. 

A wise teacher pointed out that we are also provided with gifts we neither want nor think we need.  In truth, these gifts are  the difficult necessities of emotional and spiritual growth. Do any of us need the pain, disease, upheaval, shattering, confusion, anger, and sorrow inevitably visited upon us? We struggle to see them as the Divine seeds for transformation that they truly are. When they take root we feel broken, abandoned. If we can find our way to facing, and even embracing them, we have the opportunity to harvest compassion and solace. We can take steps toward lifestyle changes and begin to rebuilt our lives with clarith. Being provided with all our needs challenges us to transmute our anger into understanding and open a sorrowful heart to the hope that we might one day laugh again. 

Whatever our belief system, inherent in  “Thank you” is  “You’re welcome.” Maybe that’s why I struggled against keeping a gratitude jurnal.  For me, listing things I was grateful for was a solitary exercise. I need to offer up my thankfulness to a beyond-the-imagination force who hears and possibly even accepts it with gratitude as well.

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